Music is an integral part of the cultural heritage of all known human societies, with the capacity for music perception and production present in most people. Researchers generally agree that both genetic and environmental factors contribute to the broader realization of music ability, with the degree of music aptitude varying, not only from individual to individual, but across various components of music ability within the same individual. While environmental factors influencing music development and expertise have been well investigated in the psychological and music literature, the interrogation of possible genetic influences has not progressed at the same rate. Recent advances in genetic research offer fertile ground for exploring the genetic basis of music ability. This paper begins with a brief overview of behavioral and molecular genetic approaches commonly used in human genetic analyses, and then critically reviews the key findings of genetic investigations of the components of music ability. Some promising and converging findings have emerged, with several loci on chromosome 4 implicated in singing and music perception, and certain loci on chromosome 8q implicated in absolute pitch and music perception. The gene AVPR1A on chromosome 12q has also been implicated in music perception, music memory, and music listening, whereas SLC6A4 on chromosome 17q has been associated with music memory and choir participation. Replication of these results in alternate populations and with larger samples is warranted to confirm the findings. Through increased research efforts, a clearer picture of the genetic mechanisms underpinning music ability will hopefully emerge.
Keywords: genetic; genome; music; music ability; music perception; music production; review.